RIM CEO Heins faces restive investors at today's annual meeting

RIM CEO Heins faces restive investors at today's annual meeting

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins faces his latest test Tuesday morning when for the first time he faces investors at the BlackBerry maker's annual meeting.

The meeting comes just after Heins recently gave investors a double shock. He announced worse than expected earnings and profits, plus a delay in the release of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system -- and the first phones that will run it -- from this fall to early 2013.

IN PICTURES: A Closer Look at RIM's BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha Smartphone

The news sent RIM's stock price plunging to an eight-year low, and triggered a fresh wave of speculation, and in some cases demands, that the company split up and sell off its businesses or be acquired. Though plenty of potential buyers have been named, there seems to be little reason for them to spend money for a company that's in dire trouble for one very simple reason: A lot of people are not buying RIM's products.

The new OS and the next-generation phones are seen as essential for the BlackBerry maker to reverse its plunging sales, not only in consumer markets but in the enterprise, where it long dominated with its popular email devices and phones. RIM unveiled new details of BlackBerry 10 and showed off a prototype touch phone at its recent BlackBerry World event. Attendees, largely software developers, generally liked what they saw

The big institutional investors will not be present at today's annual meeting, according to The Wall Street Journal. But Heins will be facing lots of smaller Canadian investors. RIM is based in Waterloo, Ontario, and has been a poster child of Canadian high-tech success.

The company is reportedly selling one of its two corporate jets, as part of series of cost-cutting moves designed to save $1 billion in operating spending, according to Canada's Financial Post. On the block: the nine-passenger Dassault Aviation SA F50EX, with a price tag of $6 million to $7 million. For now, the company will hold on to the larger, longer-range 14-passenger Dassault F900EX jet, according to one of the newspaper's sources.

Heins, named as CEO earlier this year, and other executives have in recent days given a series of interviews to boost the company. RIM is not in a "death spiral," Heins told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. last week. And recently named Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben said the product delay was a "blessing in disguise." He said carrier partners had also urged a delay to sidestep the frenzied Christmas buying season, and maximize attention from carriers and consumers during the quieter post-holiday.

In a Reuters interview, Boulben said, "The short delay is not detrimental if the quality is there when we launch early next year. We will have much more attention and focus and ability to leverage our carriers."

In the meantime, a range of enterprise BlackBerry users, several mentioned in a new Bloomberg news story, are preparing for the possibility of RIM eventually going out of business, and its proprietary secure network going dark. Apple's iOS-based iPhones and iPads generally dominate corporate mobile adoption, and to a lesser degree Google Android devices. [See also "Beyond BlackBerry: 3 steps to prepare for its demise"]. These alternatives to the BlackBerry are being supported by third-party device management products from vendors such as BoxTone, MobileIron, SAP's Sybase division and Zenprise.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: john_cox@nww.comBlog RSS feed:

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